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ENVIRONMENT Last modified on June 8, 2019

The future is green

Air Transport Action Group’s executive director, Michael Gill, encourages airports to be more vocal in promoting their efforts to reduce their environmental footprint.

The global aviation industry has one of the clearest and most wide-ranging climate action plans of any sector.

By 2050, we aim to cut net CO2 emissions from our operations in flight and on the ground to half of what they were in 2005. All parts of the sector are committed to this plan and are investing in a greener future for flight.

The spotlight is often on airlines and aircraft manufacturers, as they invest heavily in technology innovations and operational improvements to reduce CO2 emissions. New engines, lighter fleets and new air traffic control techniques are crucial to achieving the industry’s climate target.

But airports, too, play a crucial role in ensuring a greener future for our sector and we encourage them to be more and more vocal about their environmental efforts.

Airports work to reduce their environmental footprint through the sustainable management of energy, emissions, waste, water, noise and local air quality. These are aspects which go well beyond the industry’s climate plan and address the responsible use of scarce resources, conservation of biodiversity and the co-existence of communities and nature.

Airport planning and design is also geared towards maximising efficiency with the minimal possible impact on the environment.

ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation Programme encourages airports to take climate action and supports them in their undertaking, but it also proactively communicates these efforts within the industry, with its partners, customers, governments and the wider public.

With 264 airports worldwide currently accredited, spanning 71 countries and welcoming 43% of global air passenger traffic, the Airport Carbon Accreditation Programme shows that airports around the world are leaders in climate action and take their responsibility towards the planet seriously.

We should hear a lot more from these 264 airports – on a global, but even more importantly, on a local level – about their motivation and experience in making their operations greener.

We encourage airport operators to communicate more actively about their investments in more energy efficient lighting, heating, switching to hybrid or electric ground vehicles, on-site renewables, energy management tools and employee behavioural change. All have a part to play.

The possibilities become even more varied and impactful when airport operators engage other stakeholders on the airport site, for example, offering passengers and employees greener transport solutions to and from the airport.

Airports around the world should also be more vocal about what they are doing to mitigate their respective impacts on the environment because:

• Climate change is a daunting challenge and the best response is to take responsibility for what one controls. In today’s context of increased awareness of the impacts of climate change, proactive communication about our sector’s actions are vital if we want to avoid being left behind.

• Airports in all parts of the world actually have a great story to tell on sustainability and climate action. Inspiring examples from airports around the world draw a picture of a sector that actively seeks to make a positive change.

• Airport operators can – and often do – act as role models for other stakeholders on-site or in the local economy, as their measures to mitigate emissions (such as electrifying a ground fleet or installing solar panels) can be applied to other infrastructure projects or transport modes. Indeed, according to the Airport Carbon Accreditation Programme, over 100 airports worldwide are encouraging other companies on the airport site to lower their CO2 emissions.

Sustainability initiatives at airports are well worth a press release, an article or a blog post and should become an integral part of corporate communications.

The role of employees as ambassadors to carry an airport’s environmental efforts into the local community should not be underestimated either and we would underline the important role to be played by internal communications.

And lastly, engaging the local community in sustainability initiatives not only strengthens acceptance and fosters community relations, but it also showcases the important role of airports as leaders in climate action – which is what they truly are.

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